In Search Of His Roots

By Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Step into the Kilimanoor Palace and it causes goosebumps, such is the history and intrigue attached to the place. Walking through the corridors, winding your way through the dense greenery, all gives it a haunting feel. We unravel the mystique of the Ravi Varma legend taking you through the place where he was born, raised and took his first steps with the brush before going on to become one of India's greatest artists. Scroll through to revisit the legacy.

Archway (2018-09-30) by Jay VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

The pathway to the Thevarappara (place of worship of the royals)

A closer view of the Thevarappara.

Sacred Tree (2018-09-30) by Jay VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

It is said that on one of her walks from the temple back home, Ravi Varma's mother Umaymaba Bayi was possessed by the spirit residing in this aalamaram (Banyan tree).

Umayamba's Temple (2018-09-30) by Jay VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

The temple where Ravi Varma's mother Umayamba Bayi was exorcised of the spirit that had possessed her.

It is believed that the spirit before it left Umayamba's body blessed her with a son, who would go on to become famous. The beginning of the legend of Ravi Varma.

Ravi Varma's Studio in Kilimanoor (2018-09-30) by Jay VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

An external view of the studio where Ravi Varma creativity took shape and found wings, making him a global icon.

Ravi Varma would begin his day with the first ray of sunlight and would be at work on his easel until dusk. Play of light was a huge feature in his works, making him a maestro.

Ravi Varma's Room in Kilimanoor (2018-09-30) by Jay VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Inside Ravi Varma's studio which houses reproductions of some of his works as well as a marble bust of his sister Mangala Bayi.

Raja Ravi Varma In His Studio (1901) by UnknownRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Painting from dawn till dusk, Ravi Varma (centre) would take a break only after that, and would unwind listening to stories from the epics and puranas.

Bharani Nal Raja Raja Varma (1880) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Sri Chitra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram

Ravi Varma's uncle, mentor and guru, Raja Raja Varma himself was an extraordinary artist and nurtured the young boy's talent.

Ornate mural by C Raja Raja Varma (2018-09-30) by Raja Raja VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

One of Raja Raja Varma's murals in Kilimanoor.

The work on the mural is intense.

War scene mural by C Raja Raja Varma (2018-09-30) by Raja Raja VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Ravi Varma's uncle had a penchant for depicting flora and fauna. This mural in Kilimanoor depicts a battlefield scene.

Mural of Horse by C Raja Raja Varma (2018-09-30) by Raja Raja VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

The mural of a horse on one of the walls in the house.

Ravi Varma's palate & brushes (2018-09-30) by Jay VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Ravi Varma's contemporary, Mukundan Thampi, who greatly admired the master artist, followed his style of art. Shown here are the pencils that Thampi used for his sketches.

Ravi Varma's Palate & Dhoti (2018-09-30) by Jay VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Ravi Varma regarded Thampi highly saying: "should Thampi focus on his work, he would sweep the rest of us off with a stroke of his brush."

Thampi treasured Ravi Varma's mundu (dhoti) as a souvenir.

Letter Written by Raja Ravi Varma (1906) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

A letter in Malayalam penned by the artist himself. It bears his royal ensignia and is dated as per the Malayalam calendar, addressed to the Ayilyam Thirunal.

The postage seals on the envelope sent from Travancore, Trivandrum, show the dates to be 15 and 16 January 1906, just months before Ravi Varma passed away in October.

Letter Written by Raja Ravi Varma (1906) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Ravi Varma has been commissioned to paint a portrait of Swati Thirunal but was unable to do so owing to the latter’s illness. The letter mentioned how pained he is at Swati Thirunal's suffering.

Letter written by Raja Ravi Varma (1906) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Ravi Varma writes how Swati Thirunal, who is suffering from smallpox, is in great pain and as such he wants to return back home.

Postcard of Shakuntala Patralekhan (1920) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: Collection of Srinivasu Dokka

Ravi Varma works were used in various segments and collectors of his art came in different kinds. This postcard collector, for obvious reasons, rates Shakuntala Patralekhan highly.

Haunsa Damyanti, Unknown, 1920, Original Source: Collection of Srinivasu Dokka on loan to Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, Bengaluru
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Hamsa Damayanti, another of Ravi Varma's iconic works in the form of a postcard.

Malati (Postcard), Unknown, 1894, Original Source: Private Collection
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Malati, though the original work shows her in a red sari, in this black and white reproduction on the postcard has a strong sense of impact.

Ravi Varma Stamp (1971-04-29) by Post and Telegraphs Department, IndiaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

The commemorative stamp issued in honour of Raja Ravi Varma.

The backdrop on the stamp features one of his iconic works -- Hamsa Damayanti.

Credits: Story

Original dated and signed letter donated to Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation by: Parthasarathy Varma of Mavelikara Kotaram
Photographs: Jay Varma
Commemorative stamp: TS Prasad
Collection of Raja Ravi Varma Postcards: Srinivasu Dokka

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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